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While many salespeople succeed in good times without necessarily “deserving” it, only the best salespeople truly thrive in tough times. In a difficult market, the key is to sell what the customer needs, not what is nice to have. Even though you may not be able to change the solutions you sell, you can certainly influence how you position, present, and sell your solutions. The successful salesperson strategically targets vital stakeholders and maintains an ongoing dialogue with customers and prospects about critical challenges and solutions that provide significant benefits.

We’ve compiled a list of success factors to excel in sales during challenging market conditions.

1. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up

While the mantra in real estate is location, location, location, in sales, it’s follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. Customers are short on time and overwhelmed with concerns when the market is demanding. So ensure you closely follow up with the customer throughout the entire sales process—before, during, and after the sale.

2. Focus on customer benefits and value

Customers need to save money, buy cheaper, simplify processes, automate, streamline, operate with fewer employees, increase their customer focus, and gain more profitability from their sales force—in short, run a more profitable business.

Customers aren’t interested or have the time and energy to listen to detailed product-oriented salespeople. Therefore, ensure that the sales dialogue revolves around the customers’ challenges, goals, or problems—and how these can be solved cost-effectively, with the time from investment to profitability as short as possible.

Commercial strategy. Employee happily working at presentation
Professional at online meeting

3. Get to the point quickly

As mentioned, customers are more preoccupied in tough times. So don’t waste the customer’s time. Be concise! Start with the point, not with lengthy elaborations. If the customer becomes impatient, you’ll never get to present your point.

“Dear customer, I’ll briefly show you how I believe it’s possible to reduce operating costs by over 10% annually (customer value and return). I support that with the salesperson presenting the solution and benefits—not the product and themselves. Typical responses may include: “10%, I can’t believe it” or “10%, how is that possible?” Regardless, you’re already engaged in a customer dialogue instead of being interrupted by your sales monologue.

4. Sell at a strategic level

Decisions are moved higher up the hierarchy in challenging times. It makes it even more necessary to sell to the key stakeholders at the customer strategically.

5. Focus on customers with urgent needs

Customers are only concerned about the pressing challenges in tough times—meaning the operational challenges they need to manage. If a potential customer doesn’t have an urgent need that you can address, move on and find one that does.

6. Match the customer’s buying process

You must have a structured direction in your sales process and ensure it aligns well with the customer’s buying process. Remember to identify all key stakeholders early on and ensure you have a strong foothold with them.

7. Increase face time

The average salesperson spends about 20% of their time in dialogue with customers, while the best salespeople spend at least 50%. It translates to roughly 20 hours of face-to-face, or ear-to-ear, time with customers and prospects.

In tough times, you won’t succeed in sales if you don’t increase your customer-oriented activity level. Your primary task is to meet customers’ needs and thus generate sales. All other tasks should be cut back or reduced to an absolute minimum.

8. Work smarter and be diligent

It follows from the previous points that salespeople need to work more in tough times. You should focus on customer dialogue, cut down on all non-primary tasks, and perform non-primary tasks before or after customers are available for dialogue.

The intelligent salesperson takes advantage of the times when other salespeople are off—such as Friday afternoons, Monday mornings, and parts of holidays. Even though many customers are away, not all of them are.

Sales is a demanding, competitive profession. We must work smarter, better, and harder in a challenging market situation to stay competitive.